Scientists and community meet to discuss South Bronx air pollution study

June 12, 2001

On Saturday June 16th, environmental health experts from NYU School of Medicine, community activists, and Congressman Jose Serrano will hold a town hall meeting to discuss a major air pollution study taking place in the South Bronx. The South Bronx has an alarmingly high incidence of asthma; a recent NY Department of Health survey found that asthma levels at some South Bronx schools are at least three times the national average. The study will help determine whether air pollution levels in the area are associated with asthma attacks.

The new study will measure the local air pollution levels, especially black carbon (soot) from diesel trucks and buses in the South Bronx. A pilot study began on April 17, 2001 and ended on May 7, 2001. During this time, the NYU team sent a vehicle with a portable soot monitor to 26 designated locations in the South Bronx. The results were used to select four of the 26 sites where a more complete sampling will be conducted during the summer and fall of 2001.

At the town hall meeting, reporters can interview the NYU environmental experts who will be discussing the study. The experts are: Max Costa, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Environmental Medicine; George Thurston, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine; and Lung Chi Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine. Reporters and the public also are invited to tour the vehicle.

The town hall meeting is sponsored by NYU Department of Environmental Medicine; Nos Quedamos; Sports Foundation Inc.; The Point; and Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice.

When: Saturday, June 16th, 9:30-12:45 PM Where: Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College (CUNY) 450 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY (149th St. Grand Concourse)
Attached: Q & A about the study and speaker bios.

Q & A: South Bronx Air Pollution Study

1. Why is there a need for this study?

The South Bronx is an epicenter for asthma problems in the city and nation. Indeed, a recent NY Department of Health survey found that asthma levels at the three South Bronx schools-PS 48, 60, and 75-are at least three times the national average. Almost one in four children have asthma in these schools, and nearly half say the lung disease has forced them to visit the emergency room.

2. What is the South Bronx Air Pollution Study?

This air pollution study will measure local air pollution levels, especially black carbon (soot) from diesel trucks and buses in the South Bronx. Other common urban air pollutants believed to affect human health will also be measured, including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide.

3. Explain the most recent update on the study?

The pilot study began on April 17, 2001 and ended on May 7, 2001. During this time, the NYU team had a vehicle outfitted with a portable soot monitor which was sent to 26 designated locations in the South Bronx. Sampling times occurred during morning and evening rush hours. Peak concentrations of black carbon (an indicator of diesel truck and bus emissions) were measured. The results were used to select four of the 26 sites where a more complete sampling will be conducted during the summer and fall of 2001. The four sites represent a range of concentrations experienced in the South Bronx.

4. What are the objectives of the study?

Air pollution levels in the South Bronx will be measured in order to characterize exposures to traffic-related pollution. Street-level concentrations will be compared with those measured by roof-top Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) central monitoring sites in the South Bronx and in other parts of the city. The contribution of traffic patterns to the pollution levels will be determined.

5. What will the public learn from this study?

Due to the alarmingly high incidence of asthma among the South Bronx community, this study will establish more complete information regarding the air pollution exposures experienced by South Bronx residents.

6. How does the asthma study relate to other research at NYU School of Medicine?

NYU School of Medicine received a large multimillion dollar grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to set up a research center for airborne particulate matter. The NYU Center for Particulate Matter Health Research is based in Tuxedo Park, NY, the site of the School of Medicine's Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine. At the center, researchers are conducting important studies to identify and characterize the tiny particles in polluted air that contribute to a host of respiratory ailments, and may even kill thousands of people nationwide each year. The $8 million federal grant to NYU is being used to build on a body of research showing how the inhalation of fine and ultrafine airborne particles into the deepest recesses of the lungs can contribute a variety of illnesses, especially in people with pre-existing heart and lung disease.


Honorable Jose E. Serrano (D-NY) Congressman Serrano represents New York's 16th Congressional District in the South Bronx. His tenure in Congress spans 11 years. He is the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State, Judiciary and related agencies of the House Appropriations Committee. Congressman Serrano has been instrumental in the allocation of funds for the South Bronx Air Pollution Project.

Lung Chi Chen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine Dr. Chen is the Principal Investigator for the South Bronx Air Pollution Project. His primary research interests involve inhalation toxicology, air pollution and its adverse pulmonary effects.

Robert A. Williams, Founder/Governing Officer/CEO of Sports Foundation, Inc. Since the Sports Foundation's inception in 1967, Mr. Williams' has contributed immensely to his community through the development and implementation of various youth programs. In addition to exceptional sports based programs, Bob and his staff have devised an array of programs geared toward substance abuse prevention, youth leadership development, individual and group guidance, scholarship advisement and educational publications.

Ms. Yolanda Garcia, Executive Director/Founder of We Stay/Nos Quedamos Committee, Inc. We Stay/Nos Quedamos is a grass roots community-based organization founded in 1993. Ms Garcia is an environmental health advocate in her community. Through public policy changes and coalition building she has made many strides in keeping her community informed and safe from environmental insults.

George D. Thurston, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine Dr. Thurston is Co-Investigator on the South Bronx Air Pollution Project. His research interests include human health effects of inhaled air pollutants, air pollution, asthma, aerosol science and air pollution meteorology and modeling.

Mathy V. Stanislaus, Esq. Mr. Stanislaus is currently Director of Environmental Compliance for Enviro-Sciences, Inc.. His specialty is in environmental law. Mr. Stanislaus has worked for the EPA as Assistant Regional Council in the past.

Max Costa, Ph.D., Professor & Chairman, Environmental Medicine; Director, Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine; Professor of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmacology; Associate Director, Environmental Carcinogenesis and Population Studies, Kaplan Comprehensive Cancer Center Dr. Costa's research interests include the study of various metals and their human health effects including cancer and other adverse human health effects.

Alexie Torres-Fleming, Founder & Executive Director of Youth Ministries For Peace & Justice Ms. Torres-Fleming and five other disheartened individuals incited by the alarmingly high number of youths dying from drug related deaths, created a neighborhood center for youths of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice is a center for urban ministry dedicated to fostering peace and justice through youth and community development.


Contact: Pam McDonnell, 212-404-3555
Office of Public Affairs and Media Relations
NYU School of Medicine

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

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